“We are so prepared to surrender, to give up our own power. We have no idea how powerful we are. No sense of it. We’re endowed with an incredible mind, incredible potential, incredible strength, incredible determination. And we’re ready to give it up. There’s no other animal on the face of the earth that seems so willing to give up. Other animals will scuffle until they take care of the barrier or they’re crushed in the attempt.
“It’s that kind of determination that we need to settle the most difficult things we carry around with us. It’s no small thing, the things that we deal with–our demons, our barriers, our hesitancies, our fears, and our anger. Nobody is going to do it for us; nobody is capable of doing it for us. We must, of necessity, accomplish the barriers ourselves. When you really push “I can’t let go” to the edge and you finally do let go, the next time becomes that much easier. Each barrier you encounter is that much easier to deal with.” Can Do, Will Do, Done, Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi,True Dharma Eye, Case 143, Touzi’s Clarification of the Ancestor’s Intention
Only we humans give up so easily. I’ve been guilty of it myself. “It’s just too hard. It’s not worth it.” Most things aren’t worth it, but a few things are: enlightenment, doing what you believe is the right thing, getting your vehicle out of the ditch, etc.
I believe we give up too easily because our energy is already going in twenty different and unworthy directions. One more demand elicits the “screw it” response. We’re already tired.
Going to school endlessly has taught me to push for those things I believe are worthy of an investment of my time. I’ve seen so many people fail at classes and it is almost always for the same reason: the student has too many other demands on their time, many of which are pure BS. Students grossly underestimate the sheer amount of time many classes demand, even the easy ones. Homework, discussion questions, and term papers apply to even the easiest of classes. Then there are the classes that you have no natural affinity for, which can take up to three times the time to do the homework than it takes other students. For example, I am not naturally talented at accounting. I’ve had accounting classes that sucked up 25 hours per week for homework. Other students could do it in eight hours.
I remember one girl telling me, “I have the right to party.” I responded, “The teacher has the right to fail your ass, too.” She was hurt I never called her again, but I wasn’t wasting my time trying to help someone whose highest priority was partying. I, unlike her, did not live in a bad Beastie Boys video. I took fewer classes than she did. She failed all of hers. I aced most of mine. I had no intention of failing. I removed any obstacles to my success. Hangovers were never part of my academic strategy.
As a tutor, I have found that the students that practice eventually catch on, no matter how little natural ability they may have at a particular subject. They may never be great at it, but they don’t fail. It’s about persistence, not ability. People are capable of so much more than they realize.
I believe success at pretty much anything demands a reduction of other competing priorities. Nobody can be everywhere at all times. Choices are made. Consequences are dealt. Persistence does not guarantee success, but the alternative is to always wonder if you could have succeeded, had you just tried harder. I would rather fail honestly than to regret just not trying.